Monday, March 10, 2014
The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi v. IndyMac MDS, Inc.
Issue: Whether the filing of a putative class action serves, under American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, to satisfy the three year time limitation in § 13 of the Securities Act with respect to the claims of putative class members.
SCOTUSblog has a post on the case.
Monday, March 3, 2014
SCOTUS has granted the petitions for certiorari in the following cases of interest to proceduralists:
Issue: Whether Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) permits a party moving for a new trial based on juror dishonest during voir dire to introduce juror testimony about statements made during deliberations that tend to show the alleged dishonesty.
Issue: Whether, for purposes of a claim under Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. § 77k, a plaintiff may plead that a statement of opinion was “untrue” merely by alleging that the opinion itself was objectively wrong, as the Sixth Circuit has concluded, or must the plaintiff also allege that the statement was subjectively false – requiring allegations that the speaker’s actual opinion was different from the one expressed – as the Second, Third, and Ninth Circuits have held.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
The Supreme Court, in Chadbourne & Parke LLC v. Troice, in an opinion by Justice Breyer, held that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 did not forbid "a class action in which the plaintiffs allege (1) that they 'purchase[d]' uncovered securities (certificates of deposit that are not traded on any national exchange), but (2) that the defendants falsely told the victims that the uncovered securities were backed by covered securities."
An analysis of the opinion is on SCOTUSblog here.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Walden v. Fiore. The case is a Bivens action against an officer involved in seizing cash that the plaintiffs were carrying through the Atlanta airport. Justice Thomas’s unanimous opinion begins: “This case asks us to decide whether a court in Nevada may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant on the basis that he knew his allegedly tortious conduct in Georgia would delay the return of funds to plaintiffs with connections to Nevada.” The answer? No. From the final paragraph:
Well-established principles of personal jurisdiction are sufficient to decide this case. The proper focus of the “minimum contacts” inquiry in intentional-tort cases is “‘the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.’” Calder, 465 U. S., at 788. And it is the defendant, not the plaintiff or third parties, who must create contacts with the forum State. In this case, the application of those principles is clear: Petitioner’s relevant conduct occurred entirely in Georgia, and the mere fact that his conduct affected plaintiffs with connections to the forum State does not suffice to authorize jurisdiction.
Here are some highlights from the opinion:
Monday, February 24, 2014
Today the Supreme Court denied certiorari in three cases that have come to be known as the “smelly washing machine” class actions. In all three, the lower court certified the class action, and the defendants—invoking Wal-Mart and Comcast—sought certiorari. The cases are:
- Whirlpool Corp. v. Glazer (S.Ct. No. 13-431), from the Sixth Circuit
- Sears Roebuck & Co v. Butler (S.Ct. No. 13-430), from the Seventh Circuit
- BSH Home Appliances Corp. v. Cobb (S.Ct. No. 13-138), from the Ninth Circuit (which did not issue an opinion but denied permission under Rule 23(f) to appeal the district court’s order granting class certification).
Friday, February 14, 2014
The NBA starts its all-star break today. The U.S. Supreme Court is on break as well, and it too is right at the midpoint of the season. The Term has already been quite active on the civil procedure and federal courts front, with decisions on personal jurisdiction, Younger abstention, transfer of venue, the Class Action Fairness Act, and appellate jurisdiction. And there’s more on the horizon:
- Walden v. Fiore (venue and personal jurisdiction);
- Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund (class actions);
- Wood v. Moss (on qualified immunity and, perhaps, pleading standards more generally);
- Highmark v. Allcare and Octane Fitness v. Icon Health (two cases on awarding attorneys’ fees in patent cases);
- Petrella v. MGM (laches in civil copyright claims)
- Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison (Article III and bankruptcy proceedings);
- UBS Financial Services v. Union de Empleados de Muelles (Rule 23.1’s pre-suit demand requirement)
Why do we pay so much attention to these cases? For most court-watchers, it’s not because there is a strong interest in whether a Massachusetts gravel supply company underpaid its benefit fund obligations. Rather, it’s because of what the Supreme Court’s decisions mean going forward. Because of stare decisis, judicial decisions can prospectively bind future courts just as an Act of Congress or a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure can. In many areas of procedure, Supreme Court decisions may be the most significant lawmaking acts we’re going to see.
With that in mind, I thought I would share a link to my recent article, To Say What the Law Is: Rules, Results, and the Dangers of Inferential Stare Decisis, 99 Virginia L. Rev. 1737 (2013). The article was driven in part by the struggle to figure out the precedential effect of controversial Supreme Court decisions like Wal-Mart and Iqbal. But I try to tackle more generally the question of what parts of a judicial decision should actually create binding law, and in what way. Here’s the abstract:
Judicial decisions do more than resolve disputes. They are also crucial sources of prospective law, because stare decisis obligates future courts to follow those decisions. Yet there remains tremendous uncertainty about how we identify a judicial decision’s lawmaking content. Does stare decisis require future courts to follow the rules stated in a precedent-setting opinion? Or must future courts merely reconcile their decisions with the ultimate result of the precedent-setting case? Although it is widely assumed that a rule-based approach puts greater constraints on future courts, two recent Supreme Court decisions — Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes and Ashcroft v. Iqbal — turn this conventional wisdom on its head. In both cases, what the Court said about the governing rules was not inherently controversial, and would leave courts with considerable flexibility going forward. But what the Court did in applying those rules — the ultimate results in Wal-Mart and Iqbal — could be very destabilizing if stare decisis mandates consistency with those results in future cases.
This article assesses competing approaches to stare decisis, and argues that the lawmaking content of a judicial decision should be only the rules that the court states in deciding the case. While the end result may be instructive, enlightening, or valuable for any number of reasons, it should not create binding obligations on future courts as a matter of stare decisis. A rules-only approach is an unconventional position (even those who favor rule-based stare decisis typically presume that consistency with results is also required). But it strikes the optimal balance. To infer binding obligations from results alone creates a risk that — as with Wal-Mart and Iqbal — future courts will be forced to intuit more radical legal changes than the precedent-setting court actually embraced. Put simply, a judicial decision should create binding law only to the extent that it says what the law is. Unless and until new legal rules are declared (whether by the judiciary in later cases or by legislation), courts should be free to operate within the existing legal framework, without being required to reconcile their decisions with the mere results of earlier ones.
Thanks again to the editors at the Virginia Law Review, who did a fantastic job on the article, and to the many colleagues who gave me such terrific feedback and suggestions.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Adam Liptak reports in the New York Times on last week’s appearance by Justices Ginsburg (Brooklyn) and Kagan (Manhattan) at the New York City Bar Association. A few of the funnier bits from Justice Kagan’s lecture involve civil procedure. From the article:
Justice Kagan also had a little fun with Justice Ginsburg’s writing and interests. “As a law professor, she was a pathmarking scholar of civil procedure,” Justice Kagan said, and then paused. “Pathmarking. Have you ever heard that word before? It appears in about 30 Justice Ginsburg opinions — although it appears actually not to exist. Oh well.”
Justice Ginsburg is also an expert in comparative civil procedure, Justice Kagan said: “She wrote what I am confident is the definitive American volume on civil procedure in Sweden. That’s why when the Supreme Court faces a tricky question of Swedish civil procedure, we always go straight to Justice Ginsburg.”
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Last week the Supreme Court issued its decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, a case covered earlier here and here and here. In many ways, the case resembles Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, last Term's decision on the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The Daimler plaintiffs had brought claims under the ATS against Daimler—a German company headquartered in Stuttgart—for human rights and other violations committed by Daimler's Argentinian subsidiary during the "dirty war" of the 1970s and 1980s. The Supreme Court's decision in Daimler, however, is all about personal jurisdiction, and it is not limited to the ATS context.
The Ninth Circuit had held that Daimler was subject to general personal jurisdiction in California based on the activities of its American subsidiary, MBUSA. Because it involves general jurisdiction, Daimler is an important follow-up to the Court's 2011 decision in Goodyear Dunlop v. Brown. Writing for a unanimous Court in Goodyear, Justice Ginsburg explained that general jurisdiction over corporations is proper "when their affiliations with the State are so 'continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State."
In Daimler, all nine Justices conclude that it would be unconstitutional for California to exercise general jurisdiction over Daimler. Justice Ginsburg again writes for the Court, although Justice Sotomayor writes a separate concurrence that disagrees with much of Justice Ginsburg's reasoning. Parts of the decision—and some of the areas of disagreement—are harder than usual to follow because the parties either conceded or forfeited a number of potentially important points during the course of the litigation [see p.15]. That said, the most significant parts of the Daimler decision address three issues:
(1) When can a subsidiary's activities in the forum state be attributed to the parent for purposes of general jurisdiction?
(2) More generally, when is a corporation subject to general jurisdiction under the Goodyear standard?
(3) What role (if any) do the so-called "reasonableness" factors play in the general jurisdiction context?
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Atlantic Marine Constr. Co. v. United States Dist. Court for Western Dist. of Tex. (No. 12-929), which considers the proper procedural vehicle for enforcing a contractual forum-selection clause when the plaintiff files in a federal district that violates that clause. A few highlights from the opinion by Justice Alito:
- Motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) are not appropriate in this situation. A forum-selection clause does not make a venue “improper” for purposes of Rule 12(b)(3) or “wrong” for purposes of § 1406(a). [See pp. 4-8]
- A motion to transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) is appropriate in this situation. Section 1404(a) “provides a mechanism for enforcement of forum-selection clauses that point to a particular federal district.” [p.9]
- “[T]he appropriate way to enforce a forum-selection clause pointing to a state or foreign forum is through the doctrine of forum non conveniens.” [pp.9-10]
- It remains an open question whether a forum-selection clause could be enforced through other vehicles, such as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. This possibility had been urged by Professor Stephen Sachs in amicus brief, but the Court did not address it because the parties themselves did not raise it. Justice Alito adds: “Even if a defendant could use Rule 12(b)(6) to enforce a forum-selection clause, that would not change our conclusions that § 1406(a) and Rule 12(b)(3) are not proper mechanisms to enforce a forum-selection clause and that §1404(a) and the forum non conveniens doctrine provide appropriate enforcement mechanisms.” [p.11]
The opinion then addresses how a court should decide a § 1404(a) motion to enforce a forum-selection clause. Justice Alito writes:
“When the parties have agreed to a valid forum-selection clause, a district court should ordinarily transfer the case to the forum specified in that clause.5 Only under extraordinary circumstances unrelated to the convenience of the parties should a §1404(a) motion be denied.” [p.11]
(Footnote 5 makes clear that the Court’s analysis “presupposes a contractually valid forum-selection clause,” which leaves open the possibility that such a clause could be challenged as contractually invalid.) Justice Alito then explains: “The presence of a valid forum-selection clause requires district courts to adjust their usual §1404(a) analysis in three ways.” [p.12] They are:
- “First, the plaintiff ’s choice of forum merits no weight. Rather, as the party defying the forum-selection clause, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that transfer to the forum for which the parties bargained is unwarranted.” [p.13]
- “Second, a court evaluating a defendant’s § 1404(a) motion to transfer based on a forum-selection clause should not consider arguments about the parties’ private interests…. As a consequence, a district court may consider arguments about public-interest factors only.” [pp.13-14]
- “Third, when a party bound by a forum-selection clause flouts its contractual obligation and files suit in a different forum, a § 1404(a) transfer of venue will not carry with it the original venue’s choice-of-law rules.” [p.14]
Footnote 8 states that “the same standards should apply to should apply to motions to dismiss for forum non conveniens in cases involving valid forum-selection clauses pointing to state or foreign forums.”
The Court ultimately reverses the Fifth Circuit, but it remands for further proceedings: “Although no public-interest factors that might support the denial of Atlantic Marine’s motion to transfer are apparent on the record before us, we remand the case for the courts below to decide that question.” [p.17]
Monday, November 18, 2013
Earlier this month we covered Chief Justice Roberts’ statement in Marek v. Lane, a case challenging a class action settlement that included cy pres remedies. In his statement, Chief Justice Roberts agreed with the decision to deny certiorari but raised a number of concerns about cy pres remedies, concluding that “[i]n a suitable case, this Court may need to clarify the limits on the use of such remedies.”
Today, Justice Alito issued a similar statement “respecting the denial of the petition for writ of certiorari” in another case involving a class action settlement: Martin v. Blessing (No. 13-169). You can find his six-page statement in today’s order list, beginning on page 13 of the pdf file. It begins:
The petition in this case challenges a highly unusual practice followed by one District Court Judge in assessing the adequacy of counsel in class actions. This judge insists that class counsel “ensure that the lawyers staffed on the case fairly reflect the class composition in terms of relevant race and gender metrics.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 35a. The uniqueness of this practice weighs against review by this Court, but the meaning of the Court’s denial of the petition should not be misunderstood.
The judge is U.S. District Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District of New York, and Justice Alito writes that “[b]ased on the materials now before us, I am hard-pressed to see any ground on which Judge Baer’s practice can be defended.” [p.3]
Friday, November 15, 2013
1. Whether this Court should overrule or substantially modify the holding of Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988), to the extent that it recognizes a presumption of classwide reliance derived from the fraud-on-the-market theory.
2. Whether, in a case where the plaintiff invokes the presumption of reliance to seek class certification, the defendant may rebut the presumption and prevent class certification by introducing evidence that the alleged misrepresentations did not distort the market price of its stock.
Links to the cert-stage briefing and the Fifth Circuit’s opinion below available are at SCOTUSblog. If the name of this case sounds familiar, it’s been up to the Supreme Court before. In 2011, the Court unanimously decided that the plaintiff was not required to prove loss causation at the class-certification phase. But at the end of the opinion, Chief Justice Roberts alluded to the issues the Court will now confront:
Because we conclude the Court of Appeals erred by requiring EPJ Fund to prove loss causation at the certification stage, we need not, and do not, address any other question about Basic, its presumption, or how and when it may be rebutted. To the extent Halliburton has preserved any further arguments against class certification, they may be addressed in the first instance by the Court of Appeals on remand.
Friday, November 1, 2013
There is a lot of action on the civil procedure & federal courts front next week. Mark your calendars (especially if you’ll be in D.C.).
- Monday, November 4: SCOTUS oral argument in Walden v. Fiore (personal jurisdiction and venue)
- Tuesday, November 5: Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, Changing the Rules: Will limiting the scope of civil discovery diminish accountability and leave Americans without access to justice? (witnesses: Arthur Miller, Andrew Pincus, Sherrilyn Ifill)
- Tuesday, November 5: SCOTUS announces one or more opinions in argued cases (could it be Daimler v. Bauman?)
- Tuesday, November 5: SCOTUS oral argument in Sprint v. Jacobs (Younger abstention)
- Wednesday, November 6: SCOTUS oral argument in Mississippi ex rel. Jim Hood v. AU Optronics Corp. (Class Action Fairness Act)
- Thursday, November 7: Public hearing on the proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Friday, October 18, 2013
This week the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Daimler AG v. Bauman (covered earlier here and here). Daimler resembles last Term's Kiobel case, in that it involves claims against a foreign defendant (Daimler) for human rights and other violations committed abroad (in Argentina, during the "dirty war" of the 1970s and 1980s) under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). But the question for which the Court granted certiorari in Daimler involves personal jurisdiction and is not limited to ATS cases: "whether it violates due process for a court to exercise general personal jurisdiction over a foreign corporation based solely on the fact that an indirect corporate subsidiary performs services on behalf of the defendant in the forum State."
During the argument, plaintiffs' counsel acknowledged that their ATS claims faced an "uphill struggle" in light of Kiobel, but they are also pursuing state law and foreign law claims – for which personal jurisdiction would remain a live issue. Given the question presented, the more significant SCOTUS precursor may be the 2011 Goodyear decision, not Kiobel. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Ginsburg wrote in Goodyear that general jurisdiction over corporations is proper "when their affiliations with the State are so 'continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State." She cited (1) a corporation's principal place of business and (2) its state or country of incorporation as "paradigms" for general jurisdiction; but it remains unclear what else could render a corporation "essentially at home" in a particular forum. In particular, Goodyear acknowledged – but did not address – the argument that distinct corporate entities might be treated as a "single enterprise" for jurisdictional purposes. In Daimler, the Ninth Circuit found that California had general jurisdiction over Daimler based on the activities its American subsidiary, Mercedes Benz USA (MBUSA).
The most common reaction to this week's oral argument has been that the Justices were quite skeptical of the idea that Daimler was subject to general jurisdiction in California. That may be so, but several interesting issues came up during the argument, and there are still a number of different ways the Court could ultimately dispose of the case (some of them quite narrow).
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Lochlan Shelfer has posted on SSRN his note, Special Juries in the Supreme Court, 123 Yale L.J. 208 (2013). Here’s the abstract:
This Note presents the first detailed analysis of the Supreme Court’s only published jury trial, Georgia v. Brailsford (1794). It examines the case’s hitherto unstudied oral arguments and list of potential jurors, and argues that the "special jury" the Court employed was a Mansfieldian special jury of merchants. Brailsford has fascinated scholars both for the intriguing prospect of the Supreme Court presiding over a jury trial, and for the case’s provocative language on the power of juries to find the law. But for all of this interest, the case remains ill-understood. This Note’s conclusion that the Supreme Court used a special jury of merchants offers insights into both of these puzzles.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
During last week’s oral argument in Madigan v. Levin (No. 12-872), the Justices revealed some concerns about whether that case was a suitable vehicle for deciding the issues for which the Supreme Court granted certiorari. One such concern—highlighted in a law professor amicus brief—was that the Seventh Circuit lacked appellate jurisdiction to decide the issue.
Today, the Supreme Court dismissed the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. As is often the case, the Court issued only a one-sentence per curiam opinion: “The writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted.” (Well, it's two sentences if you count “It is so ordered.”)
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Lee Epstein (USC): “Claims about the Roberts court’s activism seem overwrought.”
Suzanna Sherry (Vanderbilt): "[T]he Supreme Court had erred more often in sustaining laws than in striking them down. 'Too much of a good thing can be bad,' she wrote, 'and democracy is no exception.'" Professor Sherry's article, entitled "Why We Need More Judicial Activism," is forthcoming in early 2014. Here's the abstract:
Too much of a good thing can be bad, and democracy is no exception. In the United States, the antidote to what the drafters of the Constitution called “the excess of democracy” is judicial review. Lately, however, judicial review has come under fire. Many on both sides of the political aisle accuse the Supreme Court of being overly activist and insufficiently deferential to the elected representatives of the people. I argue in this essay that criticizing the Court for its activism is exactly backwards: We need more judicial activism, not less. Courts engaging in judicial review are bound to err on one side or the other from time to time. It is much better for the health of our constitutional democracy if they err on the side of activism, striking down too many laws rather than too few. An examination of both constitutional theory and our own judicial history shows that too little activism produces worse consequences than does too much. If we cannot assure that the judges tread the perfect middle ground (and we cannot), it is better to have an overly aggressive judiciary than an overly restrained one.
Lee Epstein (USC) & Andrew Martin (Wash U): “In a nutshell, liberal justices tend to invalidate conservative laws and conservative justices, liberal laws.” Professors Epstein and Martin co-authored an article last year on the topic of judicial activism and the Roberts Court, entitled "Is the Roberts Court Especially Activist? A Study of Invalidating (and Upholding) Federal, State, and Local Laws."
Liptak's article also quotes a number of others, including several of the Justices themselves. The article is worth a read for those interested in the judicial activism debate.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
The Wall Street Journal LawBlog posted an interview with Justice Kennedy. Here's what Justice Kennedy said about how the court chooses cases:
Of the 9,000 [filed each year] we mark about 500 for discussion. From the 500 we discuss, we should take about 100, 120. Lately we’ve been taking only 80. There’s not a lot of emotional or intellectual capital expended arguing over whether we should take the case. If it’s a really important case and we feel badly that it wasn’t taken, there will be another one [sooner or later] on the same issue.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
It’s a case that only a true civil procedure & federal courts junkie could love. But if you’re in that category, today’s oral argument transcript in Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. U.S. District Court (covered earlier here) is a nice read.
The Justices seemed to be enjoying themselves as well – so much so that Jay Wexler (Boston University, and the Bill James/Billy Beane of SCOTUS laugh statistics) proclaimed “Holy Yuksville” after counting six laughter incidents. What topic could possibly inspire such levity? Here are the questions presented:
Following the Court’s decision in M/S Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1 (1972), the majority of federal circuit courts hold that a valid forum-selection clause renders venue “improper” in a forum other than the one designated by contract. In those circuits, forum-selection clauses are routinely enforced through motions to dismiss or transfer venue under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406. The Third, Fifth, and Sixth Circuits, however, follow a contrary rule. This Petition presents the following issues for review:
1. Did the Court’s decision in Stewart Organization, Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22 (1988), change the standard for enforcement of clauses that designate an alternative federal forum, limiting review of such clauses to a discretionary, balancing-of-conveniences analysis under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)?
2. If so, how should district courts allocate the burdens of proof among parties seeking to enforce or to avoid a forum-selection clause?
P.S. Kudos to Stephen Sachs (Duke) whose amicus brief was mentioned frequently during the argument.
Monday, October 7, 2013
The Supreme Court kicked off this Term’s oral arguments today, only to have appellate jurisdiction crash the party. The Court had granted certiorari in Madigan v. Levin (No. 12-872) to decide a question about the interplay between claims for age discrimination under the ADEA and age discrimination claims brought directly under the Equal Protection Clause and § 1983. However, an amicus brief filed by law professors who (in the words of Lyle Denniston’s excellent argument recap) “specialize in the arcane field of court procedure” argued that the Seventh Circuit lacked appellate jurisdiction to decide that issue and, therefore, the Supreme Court should vacate the Seventh Circuit’s decision and return the case to the district court.
To give credit where credit is due, Prof. Steve Vladeck (American University) authored the amicus brief and did a terrific job. The issue attracted a lot of attention at oral argument (full transcript available here), as did a number of other issues that prompted some Justices to raise the possibility of dismissing the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. Lyle’s recap concludes: “It would be no surprise,… based on Monday’s developments, that the Court would act quickly to get rid of the case, and leave the next stages to lower courts.”
Thursday, October 3, 2013